There is no shortage of style or suspense in Erin Vassilopoulos’ feature debut, Superior, in a film packed with promise but doesn’t quite find its stride.
This ’80s noir instantly gives you Tarantino vibes with its aesthetics all against a backdrop of a great techno/synth/rock soundtrack. If yellow is to Kill Bill then red is to Superior where its presence is striking and becomes a reoccurring theme.
Vassilopoulos takes on double duties as director as well as co-writer and is a film that stems from her short of the same name from 2015. The story, however, differs somewhat and we see the return of both Alessandra and Ani Mesa.
In this setting of 1980s suburban America we see Marian (Alessandra Mesa), a wild child musician, return to her hometown under suspicious circumstances to reunite with her identical twin sister Vivian (Ani Mesa) – a bored housewife clearly fed-up with of her life. We follow the estranged sisters as they reconnect and enjoy some twin role-reversal hi-jinks all whilst the suspense builds that gives us an insight into Marian’s troubled past.
First things first, yes, it is very reminiscent of The Parent Trap where these sisters assume each other’s lives but this is where the comparisons end. There is no heartwarming love story with dodgy English accents to boot nor any camera-trickery (spoilers: Lindsay Lohan does not have a twin).
But instead we have a sinister story woven throughout with themes of trauma and abuse.
Both Alessandra and Ani are the highlight of the film and are obviously very well-versed in the art of imitating one another. Each performance, though, is more than just this as their characters have layers and dimensions. Hardly surprising as they worked with Vassilopoulos on the short and this time round sees Alessandra Mesa taking on co-writer duties.
The tropes of an identity swap like this are very hard to avoid for most films and Superior is no different.
What is quite frustrating is the catalyst for the initial swap, it is all too convenient and bordering contrived. You can’t help but feel if a different decision was made here then the movie could have avoided the pitfalls that eat into the great suspense it’s carefully built.
The themes of trauma and abuse are the foundations that helps build the suspense. It does great in sustaining it for the most part that with flashbacks to Marian’s past to keep us intrigued.
But all of this feels a little hindered as we spend too long on the mundanity of the everyday life of Vivian along with a number of scenes that are completely unnecessary.
There is a lot to like about Superior beyond the stylistic choices that make it look great with its interesting ideas and Erin Vassilopoulos is certainly a director to look out for in the future.